NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Criminal uses home-made bomb to facilitate escape after armed robbery

Coaches barred from using dangerous mountainous roads

Thai and foreign tourists enjoy cool water at Doi Inthanon

Australian tourist dies in bathroom

Artificial rain-making to continue during Songkran

PAO president and members to be elected

Chiang Mai castration clinic defies recent government ban

Traditional Songkran ordination ceremony held in Doi Saket

Songkran training aims at rescues from water and high buildings

“Sufficiency Economy” village project has severe drought problems

Songkran Volunteers learn more than they expected

 

Criminal uses home-made bomb to facilitate escape after armed robbery

150,000 baht stolen from branch of Siam Commercial Bank

Saksit Meesubkwang
The Siam Commercial Bank’s branch on Ratchadamnoen Road was the scene of an armed robbery last Wednesday, resulting in a man escaping with 150,000 baht in cash and leaving a home-made grenade in a bag in front of the premises.
Police were called to the bank just after lunch, and found a black bag placed outside the door. Having been told by bank staff that it contained explosives, they called a forensic team and members of the 33rd Border Patrol Police, who exploded the bomb using a high pressure water gun, having first covered it with a rubber tyre to minimise damage from debris.
The bank’s branch manager, Rungkarn Chananont, told police that a tall man with short hair, approximately 35 years old, wearing sunglasses and carrying two black bags, had approached the deposit counter, threatened the teller with a gun, and demanded that the money be placed in one of the bags. He then took the bag and ran out, leaving the second bag on the ground outside the bank’s door. The entire robbery, according to the CCTV installation at the bank, took about 3 minutes. Police are still searching for the robber.

 

Coaches barred from using dangerous mountainous roads

Fatal accident provokes change in policy

Saksit Meesubkwang
Following last week’s fatal crash on Doi Suthep, the Chiang Mai Department of Transport has barred large tourist coaches from using narrow mountainous roads in the areas of Doi Suthep, Doi Inthanon, Doi Ang Chang and Doi Samoeng.
The coach, which belonged to Siam Holiday Tours and was carrying Malaysian tourists, had slipped off the road into a narrow gully, injuring a number of passengers and killing the driver. At a meeting of the Office of Public Disaster Prevention held after the accident had occurred, it was decided that tourists who wish to visit the mountainous areas will be transferred to smaller vehicles, which will be required to undergo an official safety check. It seems that operators of large vehicles have, in the past, been requested by the authorities not to use mountain roads because of safety concerns, but may have continued to do so, particularly on Doi Suthep and Doi Samoeng.


Thai and foreign tourists enjoy cool water at Doi Inthanon

National Park expects 10,000 Songkran visitors each day

CMM Reporters
Over the recent public holiday celebrating Chakri Day, large numbers of visitors cooled off and relaxed in the natural beauty of Doi Inthanon National Park. The famous Huay Wang Muang Waterfall was the focus of both Thai families’ and foreign tourists’ attention during that hot weekend, with many young people playing and swimming in the cool water. Stalls set up nearby provided welcome food and drink, and a great time was had by all, including the local vendors!
To ensure safety and prevent alcohol-related accidents, incidents, and disputes, (on the increase in the last several years), 100 National Park officials were spread throughout the area and concentrated at the waterfall. With the cooperation of local police, a checkpoint was also installed on the road alongside the park; it is hoped that these measures will help to reduce the problems. It is estimated that, during Songkran, at least 10,000 tourists daily will have visited Doi Inthanon.


Australian tourist dies in bathroom

Deceased woman was long-term cancer sufferer

CMM Reporters
Last week, police were called to Galaethong Tower on Changklan Road by the husband of a 65 year old Australian woman, who had found his wife lying dead in their bathroom. He told police that his wife, Victoria, had been a long-term sufferer from cancer, and that they had come to Thailand, and thence to Chiang Mai, on a holiday trip. His wife had gone to the bathroom; after a time, he went to check on her, and found that she had died. A preliminary autopsy has not revealed a specific cause of death.


Artificial rain-making to continue during Songkran

Dam levels lower but not critical

CMM Reporters
The director of the Artificial Rain Enhancement Center reassured residents recently that seeding will continue during the Songkran celebrations. In many northern provinces, including Chiang Mai, agriculture, particularly in local districts San Kampaeng, Doi Saket, and Hod, is severely affected by the drought and the extreme heat, and air quality is at risk from burning. Between 6 and 10 seeding flights daily will be introduced in Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son, Phayao, Chiang Rai, Lamphun and Lampang. Flights will also increase their range to include the area of the Maekuang dam.
As regards the water level of local dams, the Maekuang dam is at a lower level than normal, but is not at a critical stage, although people involved with local irrigation should try to conserve, manage and administrate water resources carefully at present. Artificially induced rain, however regularly applied, is not able to solve all the water shortage problems. Smog and pollution is at present at acceptable levels and is being continually monitored; artificially induced rain will also bring benefits by settling airborne particles.


PAO president and members to be elected

Former City Mayor to stand for election as president

Saksit Meesubkwang
On April 7, at the 700 Year Stadium, applications were received for the upcoming election of the president and members of the Chiang Mai Administration Organization (PAO). The election itself will be held on May 11.

Two candidates shake hands prior to the election.
Three applicants applied as candidates for the post of president of the organisation; Thawatwong na Chiengmai, (the previous president and the father of current City Mayor Dr Duentemduang na Chiengmai), Udornphan Chantharaviroj, (previously president for two terms of office), and Boonlert Buranupakorn, (previously Mayor of Chiang Mai for two terms of office). The Chiang Mai PAO is comprised of 42 members who represent 42 districts within the 24 administrative zones. Applicants applied both as members of groups, and also, in some cases, individually, and were cheered on by their supporters as they received their numbers.


Chiang Mai castration clinic defies recent government ban

“Ill-conceived ban” is dangerous and inappropriate

CMM Reporters
In defiance of a ban on all castrations issued recently by the Thai Ministry of Health, a government clinic in the city has vowed to continue with the operations if requested. The ban was issued following concern over reports of a botched castration performed on an under-aged boy in Chiang Mai, and was linked to investigations to be carried out by the Ministry. Other registered plastic surgery clinics in Thailand have also rejected the ban, amid fears that upholding it would force patients to use underground, unlicensed clinics.
Bangkok itself has become an international centre for the provision of transgender operations as well as castrations and other types of cosmetic plastic surgery such as face-lifts and breast augmentation. The chief surgeon of a major Bangkok clinic, which specialises in transgender operations, criticised the ban as ill-conceived, dangerous and inappropriate, saying that castration is an essential part of sex reassignment surgery, which, in itself, has not been banned. There is concern that castration has become a fad amongst young gays and transsexuals; however, in many cases, the irreversible operation may turn out to have been a serious mistake.


Traditional Songkran ordination ceremony held in Doi Saket

Colourful Lanna Buddhist rituals with parades and offerings

Saksit Meesubkwang
For the last 9 years, at the time of the Songkran Festival, the traditional Louk Kaew Buddhist ordination ceremony for young novice monks has been held at the Nong Bua Phra Chao Luang reservoir in Doi Saket district.

The President of the Tambon Choeng Doi Administration Organisation, Doi Saket, Mongkol Chaiyawut, is photographed here with the Governor of Chiang mai, Wibun Sa-nguanphong and novice monks.

As well as fulfilling its purpose in ordaining a large number of local young men, the ceremony is also held to preserve local traditions, arts and culture, and in recent years has become a focus for tourists visiting the area. This year’s ceremonials were held from April 11 to April13, in honour of His Majesty the King’s 80th birthday, and included a grand parade of the 81 novices who were to be ordained, each riding his horse. Most of the ordinants are the sons of local families, and everyone present was happy to help reintroduce the traditional charm of Nong Bua by celebrating this most important day in their children’s lives at the largest ordination festival of its kind in the whole of Thailand.
The colourful ceremony, with its costumes, rituals and offerings, is of the old Lanna tradition, of which, at present, possibly few people are aware.


Songkran training aims at rescues from water and high buildings

All departments to cooperate in plans for a safe festival

Saksit Meesubkwang
A Songkran preparatory training seminar focusing on rescue scenarios involving both water and high buildings took place last week at the Amora Thapae Hotel, chaired by the city’s Mayor, Dr Duentemduang na Chiengmai.

Dr Duentemduang na Chiengmai questions a helper about the seminar.
In her opening speech, the Mayor told those present that the training session had the support of both the government and the private sector within the city. Attendees included disaster prevention officers, representatives from the municipality, the administration organisation, the waterworks authority, the police traffic centre, the electricity organisation, and the local hospitals.
Demonstrations of rescues fro high buildings involving the fire department, and from water, were given courtesy of the municipality, and it was stressed that all must be in readiness to cooperate with other departments in order to achieve a safe and enjoyable Songkran for visitors and residents alike.


“Sufficiency Economy” village project has severe drought problems

Budget cancellation leads to financial difficulties

CMM Reporters
The Ban Thaepon Daeng “sufficiency economy” villages, which are being run as a Royal Project and are located in the highlands of Mae Hong Son, is suffering severely from a shortage of water caused by the present drought conditions in the area. After the Yoo Dee Mee Suk project’s budget was cancelled, lack of adequate water supplies has resulted in a 50 % loss in both the agricultural and fish breeding sections.
In an attempt to remedy the situation, village headmen had committed as yet unreceived funds from a district-approved 100,000 baht budget to purchase water pumps in order to be able to take water from the nearby Pai river. When the budget was cancelled, villagers who had gone ahead with the scheme found themselves in financial difficulties, as credit for the purchase of the pumps had already been set up.
Another attempt to use tap water for irrigation failed because of cost. Provincial authorities have not visited the area, nor have they attempted to find solutions to the problem. Mae Hong Son’s Provincial Fishery department had already warned fish breeders to stop maintaining the wells where the fish were kept, because of the water shortage. Another problem faced by the breeders is that the price of fish food has recently rocketed. Fruit farmers are also badly affected, as more than 600 out of the 100 fruit trees donated by Her Majesty the Queen have died due to lack of water.
Local provincial administration officials have been requested to provide water for drinking and cooking, and to set up a water distribution centre in each affected village. They should also provide water for agriculture. Requests have also been made that administrators should assist in creating income and short-term support and occupations for affected villagers, that they should oversee health and sanitation, and that they should cooperate with local police in the suppression of theft of equipment, animals and rice seeds. There is also a risk that entire rice crops may be stolen, due to its present high price.


Songkran Volunteers learn more than they expected

A new understanding of the true meaning of the Thai New Year

Thai and foreign voluteers learn about Songkran traditions.

CMM Reporters
Over 100 people, both foreign residents and Thais, all of whom had expressed an interest in volunteering their services during the Songkran festival, were invited to a workshop on April 5, held at the Lanna Wisdom School. Chiang Mai’s Mayor, Dr Duentemduang na Chiengmai had previously asked for volunteers to help with her ‘safe and polite’ Songkran, in the hope that at least part of the festival would be able to return to its more traditional ways.
The aims of the workshop, organised by the Chiang Mai Friends’ Group, were threefold, firstly to introduce the volunteers, many of whom were from local colleges, to each other, secondly, to explain their duties, and, thirdly, to teach them about the reasons behind the traditions and ceremonies linked with the Songkran New Year celebrations. The volunteers were also taught how to prepare flower trays for a decorating ceremony, and how to make Tung or Northern flags for placing in the sand pagoda. They learned what ingredients are considered “lucky food” at this time, and what offerings should be made to their elders in order to show respect and gratitude.
In addition, they were taught that each of the three days of Songkran has a special name and meaning. April 13, the beginning of the festival, is called Wan Sang Khan Long. Northern Thais believe that on this day they should clean their houses, wear only new clothes, and pray that bad luck and karma resulting from bad deeds during the previous year will not follow them in to the New Year. On the next day of the celebrations, April 14, people should only speak positively and pleasantly; if they become angry or unpleasant, bad luck will follow them throughout the New Year. April 15, the last day of the festival, is called Wan Paya Wan, “The Great Day”, during which all people should pray, make merit to their ancestors, and visit their elder relatives in order to ask for forgiveness and blessings for the New Year.
All the volunteers, both foreign residents and Thais, enjoyed the workshop a great deal, and came away with a new and far greater understanding of the true and traditional meaning of Songkran. For more information on the activities of the Chiang Mai Friends’ Group, please email on [email protected] retireinchiangmai.com.